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One of my goals this year was to use my British Airways Travel Together Ticket and I was determined not to let it expire, like it had in the past. I’ve had the British Airways Visa Signature Card for over three years now, and I’ve earned the ticket previously by spending $30,000 on the card in a calendar year. The best part of the Travel Together Ticket is that you use it in combination with an award redemption instead of a paid fare, but due to my obsession with retaining my American Executive Platinum elite status, I kept opting to pay for flights rather than book an award.
So, while it’s a bummer that I’ve let the ticket expire in the past, I’ve always had an excuse; finding availability for two in premium cabins on British Airways can be tricky (especially as of late). But this year I was on a mission, so, challenge accepted! The hunt was on to find availability for two in premium cabins before March 15, and I was hell bent on not letting the Travel Together Ticket once again go to waste.
Booking My Ticket on OpenSkies
After a long search, I decided to try OpenSkies, an airline owned by British Airways that I actually don’t know much about and have been itching to try for a while now.
I booked two one-way, business class (they call it Biz Bed) tickets for my boyfriend and me from Newark to Paris Orly on British Airways carrier OpenSkies. With the BA Visa Travel Together Ticket, the flight effectively cost 20,000 Avios and $475 per person. In lieu of booking a round-trip, I instead decided to fly home on American.
A Little More On OpenSkies
The airline got its start in 2008 thanks to the EU-US Open Skies Agreement, which permits any American or European airline to operate services to and from any European or American location. In the past, the airline flew more routes (like one between JFK-AMS), but currently flies only between EWR—ORY and JFK—ORY. Although once rumored to be a business-class only flight, each plane has a three cabin configuration: Biz Bed (offering fully lay-flat beds), Prem Plus (leather seats that recline 130° in a 2×2 configuration) and Eco (the main economy cabin). OpenSkies joined the Oneworld alliance on December 1, 2012, and is hoping to increase its route options to include cities such as Dublin, Frankfurt, Madrid, Brussels, Rome, and Milan in the future.
On the Ground
Check-in at the Newark airport was painless. It was quick and easy, and we breezed through security with no line. We headed straight for the Galleries British Airways lounge, which was beautiful and offered a large buffet with a chef making noodle dishes.
There was an excellent wine selection and an area for people flying first class on British Airways to get sit-down seating and service. A pleasant lounge experience overall.
We were one of the last people to board, as they didn’t even call the flight in lounge until the very end. The flight was fairly empty, and we noticed that there were actually two business cabins, one in front with three rows and one behind the galley with two, giving the impression of a more intimate business class, especially since neither section was full.
In the Air
At first glance, the cabin seems a bit dated. The container spaces below the seat has flaps that fold out, giving the seats a dingy impression. The dividers are these”geisha chic” Japanese fans, which was interesting. Since I was traveling with my boyfriend, the fact that the Business class seats face each other was fine; however, if you were traveling alone, it could seem a little awkward to be looking a stranger in the face, or to be facing the tail for that matter. I wonder if anyone has gotten motion sickness from riding backwards?
Since the flight is only about six hours, I really wanted to get some good sleep in, so after the express dinner I spent the rest of the time in a peaceful slumber.
The seats reminded me a lot of British Airways Business class, but slightly older and more worn. The seats are only about six feet long when horizontal, which is about seven inches too short for me. I had to sleep on my side with my legs curled up a bit (of course, this wouldn’t affect most people, but if you’re tall, keep it in mind). However, sheer exhaustion combined with wine ensured I was out cold, regardless of my awkward sleeping position.
I found the flight attendants to be friendly and pleasant. Before take-off we had a glass of champagne, and then realized we’d have a short delay on the ground due to mechanical problems. However, thanks to strong tailwinds were weren’t really delayed arriving into ORY.
OpenSkies serve an express dinner on this flight, meaning everything is served at once. The blackened chicken salad I had was actually the best salad I’ve ever had on a plane. I was pleasantly surprised that the chicken wasn’t dried out or overcooked. The tomato balsamic dressing gave it just enough kick, and a cheesy, spicy coleslaw-style addition made it perfect. I paired this with a crisp glass of Rose followed by a chocolate/vanilla cake for dessert.
The amenity kit was pretty standard, with products from Elemis.
Landing, customs and baggage were a breeze, and whereas this business class product isn’t the fanciest I’ve seen, it was relatively hassle free, and my entire journey wasn’t as long as it could have been.
I can absolutely see why business travelers might prefer this product. I actually chatted briefly with a few other business passengers on the flight who said they love taking OpenSkies and don’t know why more people haven’t caught on, since its relatively cheap and easy.
It wasn’t a wildly different experience from any other Business class flight on British Airways; however, I would recommend getting the back row of seats in the Business cabin, because then you won’t have to climb over someone to escape from your seat. As you can see in the photo above, the woman in front of me in the window seat would have had to climb over my legs in order to get out of her pod, but the seats in the back row are against the wall, which provides another exit and is better for privacy. You’ll feel more exposed if you aren’t in that back row.
I also really liked flying into Orly. It only took me a 20 minute Uber ride (about 60 euros) to get into the Paris city center (as opposed to a 40 minute ride from Charles De Gaulle), and I was able to take advantage of the new SPG/Uber partnership.
Overall it was a pleasant experience: nothing extraordinary, but I wouldn’t hesitate to flying them again.